"His score had risen from 38% to 97% - a fantastic result that he can be really proud of."
Terrie Penrose-Toms, Casterton College
Founded almost 80 years ago, Casterton College has a reputation as one of the highest performing independent state schools in Stamford and East Rutland. The school’s motto is ‘Ability is not fixed’, and that is certainly the case when it comes to the extraordinary progress students have made by using Spellzone to support their spelling.
Terrie Penrose-Toms is part of the team at Casterton College that works with students in need of additional spelling support. She often assigns Spellzone as a home-based activity, recommending students spend around 20 minutes per week on the online resource. So far, she has been extremely pleased with the way the programme is helping those using it, and one Year 9 student in particular.
She tells us: "One student came to our attention following a low standardised test score. We introduced him to Spellzone in December 2015 and four weeks later he completed the programme’s Spelling Ability Test, scoring 38%."
"In September this year, after eight months of using Spellzone every week, we tested him again and were thrilled to see that his score had risen from 38% to 97%. It’s a fantastic result that he can be really proud of."
Terrie says that past programmes the college has used to support student spellings have generally been paper-based, with sheets that could be sent home for students to complete. Spellzone is entirely web-based, which she says makes its use, administration, tracking and reporting much easier.
What staff at Casterton like most about Spellzone is how easy it makes viewing and evaluating student activity, engagement levels and results - even giving staff the option to track how many days it’s been since individual students have logged on. Word lists can also be downloaded as worksheets for offline use if required, providing added flexibility.
But it isn’t just college staff who find Spellzone easy to use, as Terrie explains: "I think part of the reason students have had such success with Spellzone is because they enjoy using it," she says. "This means they are more likely to continue using the resource even when they’re not being monitored, such as during school holidays. And that’s great, because we’ve seen first-hand that the longer students keep up with the programme, the better their results will be."
Casterton College is so pleased with the difference Spellzone is making to spelling abilities that the team plans to continue using it to make spelling part of everyday learning for the foreseeable future. Student engagement with the programme is so encouraging that the college is offering lunchtime sessions for students who want to use it but don’t have access to a computer at home.
Meanwhile, Terrie and the rest of the support team will be tracking the progress of all students using Spellzone, and plan to set Spelling Ability Tests as tasks in December 2016 to monitor the progress of students using the programme, as well as identifying others who could benefit from using it.